Sunday, May 31, 2009

"BNE" in Bangkok

We have three more days left in Thailand.

Before we leave I wanted to talk about "BNE" showing up everywhere you look in Bangkok.

Click here to see the video of ABC News about "BNE" in five cities around the world.

Click here to see a video about "BNE" in Japan.

No one seems to know what the "BNE" means. Is is like the "tko graffiti"?

The stickers are showing up in cities like San Francisco, Paris, London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, to name a few, and now Bangkok.

I asked at least 20 people, including policemen, taxi drivers, hookers and shop owners. No one know what "BNE" means.

Here is another video of some folks that say they are part of "BNE". Click here!

If anyone knows what "BNE" is please comment so we'll know, too.

By the way, while reserching the "BNE" we did find a funny video by McCord named "B.N.E." Click here to see it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday in Pattaya, Thailand

Daeng and I got up, showered and had breakfast at an eating stand in the market about 300 meter up the street from our hotel. Although the place is small and typical Thai, the food is great. That is probably why the place is always busy.

I had fish and young bamboo in a gravy on rice. Daeng has chicken with vegetables on rice. Can't beat the price, 50 TB ($1.47 USD) for both of us .
The lady that cooks here always smiles at us. We think it is her place and the kids do all the serving and other work.

Note: here the US Dollar has decreased in valve about six percent over the last three months. That changes the price of the meal above from $1.39 to $1.47.

The reason I am telling you the prices of things is to let you know another reason why Thailand is such a great destination for vacation and retirement.
After we ate we went into the market. Daeng bought four CD's with Thai songs to bring back to America. That way she would have some Thai music to listen to at home in California
We also bought two pineapples cut up for 30 TB. That is less than a dollar.

Then we are on to manicure, pedicure and haircuts. I must admit both the manicure and haircut was short.
I'm not talking about the time it took, I'm talking about the length of the hair and nails.

After the gals got done with us we did look pretty good.

As we were walking we also saw a hair weaving operation going on, right on the sidewalk. Girls, if you want long hair, a hair weave was 300 TB. Even with the dollar worth less, that is about $9.00.

It is now almost 2:00 PM. We walked back to our room, showered and watched television until it was time to dress to meet our friend, Rick from California and his girlfriend June.

Rick and I went to a meeting with some English speaking folks at the Skaw Soi off Second Road. The girls went shopping for a while, returning to meet us about an hour later.

We had a Special Thai meal. The girls had stopped by the restaurant while we were in the meeting and picked out the huge crab they were going to share. It was live in a water tank.

The girls really got into eating the crab in a coconut sauce. I liked the sauce on the rice. Rick and I has some spring rolls, cashew nuts, vegetables and chicken with rice.

It was a great meal together.
We walked down to the road to Jomtien Beach together and said good-bye for now. They took a Baht Bus home and we walked to our hotel. We will see them again on Monday.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Day in Paradise - Thailand

Woke up around 5:00 AM, put on some clothes and stopped by the 7-11 on "Walking Street" , around the corner from our hotel.

Since it is 5:00 in the morning the bars are closed and street is now open for car traffic. There are still a few folks partying and hanging out on the curb making music. It was nothing like the video above at this time of the morning .

I took my coffee and made my way to the internet that I use across the street from our hotel. The grave yard worker at the internet cafe, "Tucky", greeted me with the a nice clear: "Welcome Back!". She speaks and reads English extremely well.

Many of the Thai girls that use this internet cafe, "Explorer Internet Cafe" to email and call their farang boyfriends in other countries.
"Tucky" is always spelling English words for them.

She also helped me change the language from Thai to English on the "Picasa 3" download for the picture I put on the stories. When the download is done it is in the language of the IP address and then you have to change it. I don't read Thai so it is a little challenge to change it.

"Tucky" was a great help.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fun Day with California Friend

We had Breakfast in a little Thai place beside the building next to our hotel. This little Thai restaurant is only about five foot wide and a hundred foot deep. I call it the "Alley Restaurant". The food is fair and the price is very low. Many of the people that work around this area eat here. A couple of motorbike taxi drivers were eating when we came in.

After we ate we walked across Pattaya 2nd Road to the Buddhist Temple. There is Traditional Thai Massage School on the Temple grounds. We talked to the lady in charge and a 60 minute Traditional Thai Massage for an hour is 150 TB (about $4.50 USD). We had just eaten so we had to wait until another time.

I took some pictures of the different Buddha Images. the saying is "Buddha has many faces!". What that means, I think, is that there are many different looks. The one I liked here was the one called "Wednesday Buddha", maybe because it was resting. It is in a collect of images, one for each day of the week.

It was almost 11:00 AM so we hopped onto what most folks call a "Baht Bus". A "Baht Bus" is a small pick up truck with a canape in the bed. People just jump on and off at any locations and the cost is 10 TB (about 30 cents).

We made the trip to
Jomtien Beach and met our friend Rick, from California, and his girlfriend, June. I had talked with Rick and June last night, after a meeting of English speaking folks, here in Pattaya. They had invited us to come joint them for lunch today.
Due to the distance we had to pay 20 TB each for the "Baht Bus" that left us off right in front of their condominium. It was one of those BIG beach side condominiums that they build along the ocean front. I thin there was 1300 unit in the complex. I always thing of Miami Beach when I see one like theirs.

I called Rick on our mobile phone when we put our feet on the ground and they met us at the entrance to the building. They live on the 14 floor with a beautiful view of the ocean.

After greeting each other we hung out talking. Daeng and June got along well so it gave Rick and I a chance to talk about California and Thailand and our lives of the last three or four years. Rick has been living about six months of the year in Thailand for the last six years.

June fixed us a great lunch of chicken, mango and pineapple. We then walked to the market about a mile and a half away on the next road. It was good for us to get the exercise. We also looked at the huge swimming pool for the condo complex. It was a beautiful pool with crystal clear water.

When we got back to their apartment Rick and i watch some television and the next thing we knew more food. One of June's favorite things to do is cook. I must also say that she is a excellent cook, as well. We all were stuffed, too.

We rested for a while and agreed to meet again on Saturday. We said good-bye and waddled to the beach road to take a "Baht Bus" back to our hotel in Pattaya.

That was enough fun for us for the day. We had eaten to much so we went to bed, falling asleep with the television on.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Relaxed Day in Pattaya

Today was a very relaxed day in Pattaya. I had gotten up early, around 2:00 AM, and walked to the 7-11 on "Walking Street". It is only about a 100 meters from the Honey Lodge Hotel where we are staying.

At 2:00 AM it is a pretty busy place as the bars are now closed and all the folks and the girls leave for the night.

I took my 7-11 coffee and went to the internet cafe across from our hotel. Over the next few hours I did all the work that I had to do for my company DIAL ONE and answered most of my electronic mail.

I went back to our room. Daeng was up so we walked to the market area about 400 meters east of our hotel, had breakfast and bought pineapple for later.

Daeng still isn't feeling well so we came back to room, rested a little and then went swimming in the hotel pool. Daeng did not like this pool as it is very deep, all the way around. She is not a very good swimmer so she loses confidence if she can't tough the bottom.

She does like to go into the ocean here in Pattaya as you can walk out a long way and still be only waist deep in the water. The ocean is very warm here, also.

It was a nice restful day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

American Embassy & Trip to Pattaya

We had a good day even though it rained or should I say "spritzed" most of the day. Now "spritzed", that word sounds like it came from the Bronx or maybe the Catskill Mountains.

My passport only had one more page left in the "Visa" section. I got up, had coffee at the guest house, checked the operation hours of the American Embassy on the Internet and took a taxi to the Embassy.

I flashed my US Passport and said the word "pages" and was directed through security, leaving camera and cellular phone at security, to American Citizen Services. Speaking of cameras, I almost got in trouble at the American Consulate in Chang Mai, Thailand, two years ago, as I took a picture of the front of the Consulate.

The next thing I knew, an armed guard was standing next to me telling me I could not take pictures and to come with him. We walked to the front entrance and I was handed a telephone to talk with a man that explained that pictures could not be taken for their safety. He than asked if it was a digital camera or a film camera. I said digital so he ask me to delete the pictures of the place. I did and showed the guard and everything was okay, no arrest, no terrorist charges, no jail.

I had been in the American Embassy in Bangkok before so I knew a little of my way to the where the American Citizen Services area was. I did have to pass through the visa section with hundreds of people waiting for visa interviews. That brought back memories of getting Daeng's visa to America.

I filled out a form and turned it and passport in to a very helpful man who told me it would be ready within a hour. I hung out in the waiting room and read some of the BANGKOK POST, an English newspaper. While I was waiting I saw a man I had met Saturday night on Soi 5 (Soi is a word used for lane.) while I was getting something to eat.

His problem was the picture page on his temporary passport was delaminating. It looked like someone had been tampering with the picture. To cut this part of story short, he argued that they should make him another one or relaminate it. The lady at the window told him he needed to apply for a permanent one which would take a week.

He said he needed it tomorrow as he was traveling. After asking for a supervisor and talking about it for almost 15 minutes the supervisor said she would make him an other temporary and have it ready tomorrow morning before 9:00 AM if he applied for a permanent one at the same time. That was something he should have done when he got the temporary passport five months ago after swimming with his original one.

The nice part of the whole thing was it gave me something to do, listen to all this, while I was waiting. My passport was ready and returned to me.

I took a taxi back to guest house. Daeng was dress and packed so I called the taxi man that had agreed to take us to Pattaya for 1000 TB. He said he would pick us up at noon. We walked out to the street and had some barbecued chicken, sticky rice with deep fired chicken liver and onions for breakfast.

Pong, the taxi driver arrived a few minutes before noon and loaded our luggage while I paid the guest house bill of 2100 TB for the three more pays. We had paid the first night, already. By the way, the exchange rate is now down to about 34TB to 1 USD. That means the exchange rate has gone down, or up depending if you are American or Thai, about 6% in the last three months.

The trip to Pattaya of about 1 hour and 45 minutes was pretty uneventful. The driver, Pong, was from northern Thailand so he and Daeng talked a lot in a dialect that was only used in northern Thailand.

At the Honey Lodge Hotel we check into a room on the second floor overlooking the pool. the hotel is an old hotel but of good value for 600 TB a night. Clean sheets, towels, a bottle of drinking water everyday with toilet tissue, western toilet, air conditioning, refrigerator, hot water shower, English speaking television and fresh water swimming pool. If I mentioned a few thing that you normally don't think about, here you think about them. Always test the bed before you commit, too. Some are just hard boards for mattress.

We ate around the corner in a little Thai stand and took a nap, well I slept until 2:00 AM but that's tomorrow's story!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Daeng and I wanted to wish everyone a "Happy Memorial Day".

We are just hanging out at our guest house here in Bangkok today. We will be headed for Pattaya, Thailand tomorrow after I visit the American Embassy for more pages in my passport.

We had breakfast at the Chinese Restaurant by the Tobacco Monopoly. They specialize in duck. I was thinking to myself, after all these ducks have been through they managed to keep their heads!

I have been reading about Memorial Day on the Internet. One thing that I did not know is that Memorial Day was to have started in Watertown, NY. As an upstate New Yorker that made me fell kind of warm and fuzzy.

I forgot that today was Memorial Day as I'm old. When I was young Memorial Day was on May 30th each year. I was about 30 years old when it was changed to the last Monday of the month to let everyone have a three day weekend. I'm not judging, I'm just saying.

Best wishes to ALL!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday in Bangkok - Shopping

As many of you know, I think of Bangkok as if I was flying into the Bronx. I say that lovingly as Bangkok is a city of around 16 million people with many interesting things to do.

Shopping is one of the things that comes to the top of the list right along with visiting Buddhist Temples.

We got up today around 8:00 AM, had some breakfast at one of the eating stands on the street and got a taxi to the Ghatuchak Weekend Market. This market is HUGE! It is the largest market in Thailand. It is over 35 acres with more than 5000 stalls and as many as 300,000 people visit it each day on Saturday and Sunday

Although it was only about 10:00 AM the temperature was already up over ninety degrees and the humidity was extremely high. I was completely wet before we even got to the shop area that we wanted. The market is divided into different areas for flowers, china, incense, glass ware, jewelry, wood carvings, furniture and on and on.

We were shopping for two types of things. First, we wanted to buy incense and incense holders in little gift packs, Second, we wanted to buy small cloth bags to put jewelry in which we had bought at the Myanmar (Burma) border as gifts for folks in America.

We moved pretty fast and one shop lady actually took us to a shop that we could buy the small bags and the incense. We did have to find the rest room and we headed back out of the market.

It was about a half mile into the market were we bought the gifts and a half mile back out. At 11:00 AM you could hardly move down the isles of the market because so many people were there already. We were glad to get to the street and into an air conditioned taxi.

We got back to Soi 4 in the Sukhumvit area and were exhausted. We showered and took a nap in our nice air conditioned room with English Television including HBO.

Daeng was not feeling to well, from the beef entrails soup, I think. We stayed in and watched TV.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday in Bangkok

We got up early, around 7:00AM, and took a taxi to the area of Bangkok know as "Phra Khanong". Ever trip to Thailand we go to where our apartment was when I made the trip here in the fall of 2006. At that time we paid 1700 TB (less than $50 USD) for an air conditioned studio apartment plus water and electric.

We had a morning ritual, walking to the baker that made raisin muffins. We would buy a bag of these cake muffins and then walk to the back side of the morning market and have coffee at a little shop with just one small table and two chairs.

When we arrived everyone smiled at us as we sang the "Good Morning Song" to them and had coffee and raisin cake muffins. When all the muffins were gone I would blow up the cellophane bag and pop it. It always makes a loud noise like a gun shot.

The cost for the trip including the 200 TB for the taxi, 20 TB for muffins and 24 TB for three coffees and 40 TB for a big pineapple all cut up was 284 TB or about $8.00 USD.

That was the big event for the day! We came back to the guest house and rested for the rest of the day. We were pretty tired from traveling yesterday as well as the temperature here being in the upper nineties with very high humidity.

Tomorrow morning we are going to the huge weekend market here in Bangkok.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Trip to Bangkok

We got up at around 5:00 AM, finished packing, put the luggage in the car and headed to the Chiang Rai Airport about 56 km south of the Myanmar (Burma) border.

Yes, those are elephants on the truck.

The trip was calm and the check points just waived us through. I guess they know us by now. When we arrived at the airport we dropped off the luggage at the curb. Daeng stayed with the luggage while I parked the rental car in the same spot we got it from a month ago.

We checked in with Air Asia and everything ran smooth there. Our two bags both were under the 15 kilo that I had paid for when I bought the tickets on the internet. Yes, you now have to pay for baggage and weight on this and many other airlines, especially the discount airlines.

We had to wait at Avis about 10 minutes because we were early and they opened at 7;30 AM. The lady remembered us and was very courteous. We gave her the portable GPS that we had rented. The GPS devise was a great help to us in getting around Thailand.

She checked the car and said no damage even thought I had hit a curb with the left bumper and left a little mark from parking in Pattaya. This was my first experience of driving on the left side of the road sitting in the right side of the car. I tended to get to far to the left overcompensating, I think.

Plane ride of an hour and ten minutes was quite smooth. I purchased a cup of coffee on the flight. No more free stuff from the airlines like the old days. I'm not judging, just saying.

We got our two checked bags and walked up to the fourth level, the departing level. That is a win-win when getting a taxi out of the airport. First, we don't have to wait in line for the airport assisted taxi service and second, pay the extra 50 Thai Baht.

For the taxi driver he gets a paying fair back to town right away, too. This trip we got a good driver that by-passed the highway tolls as it was still early in the morning and not much traffic in Bangkok. He got us to our guest house in downtown area for 210 TB, usually it is around 300 TB plus highway tolls of 65 TB.

After dark we would not do this as we just don't fell safe with unknown taxi drivers. The airport assisted taxi's are all licenced and handled watched over by the airport.

We were met at the guest house but this sweet little girl and her baby. One of the best rooms in the guest house was not empty yet but would be check-out of by noon. We left out luggage and went for a breakfast of barbecued fish, sticky rice and cow entrails soup.

When we got back our bags were in room 201. We got settled, had a shower and a little nap. I wanted to go to a meeting with some other English speaking folks I know here in Bangkok so I left Daeng in the room and headed to the meeting.

It was poring rain! None of the taxi's wanted to take me the three big blocks to the meeting area as the short cut through the Tobacco Monopoly was closed at night and the traffic pattern at 6:30 PM was going the opposite way.

I was standing under the big umbrella of the barbecue chicken lady's stand and she said to take a motorbike taxi as the rain was starting to let up a little. After talking to the three motorbike taxi drivers one said he would take me the three big blocks for 50 TB.

Well, talk about am "E" ticket ride. (If you don't know what an "E" ticket ride is just ask a old person that has been to Disneyland in the early days.)

I jumped on the back of the motorbike and that was the last time we were on the street. The driver took me on the wet sidewalk, with him weaving in, out and around people and telephone poles at a very high speed. It also started to rain extremity hard again so it was almost imposing to see.

We traveled on the sidewalk for the three city blocks and he did get to to the meeting area. This was a ride I wish I had a video of that crazy motorbike ride.

It was a fun day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last Day in Mae Sai, Thailand 05-21-09 (2552)

It was a sunshiny morning here in Mae Sai, Thailand. Today we are getting ready to leave the northern most part of Thailand and fly to Bangkok tomorrow. We got up early and went to the morning market and had breakfast. We had a big breakfast of fired pork, soup, rice and pineapple.

On the way out of the market Daeng stopped and bought a bag of Lychee's. This time of year they are very inexpensive, less than ten cents US a pound.

As we were headed to the Internet shop to finish some of the work I needed to do we also passed the "Ladder Men". They go up and down the streets selling ladders. That way you don't have to worry about how you will get your ladder home. They bring them to you.

We are packing up our things today. We are storing everything we are not traveling with, including her motorbike at Daeng's Mothers. Things are pretty safe there except her Mother has been noted to give things away to needy people. 

Two years ago she gave away a pair of my rubber boots, a pair of pants and a shirt to someone from Burma that needed some clothes. We will have a little heart to heart talk before we leave this year. 

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM we drive about 60 km south to the Chiang Rai Airport, turn in our rental car at Avis and fly at 8:35 AM to Bangkok. 

We will stay in Bangkok until Monday as I need to visit the American Embassy and have more pages put in my passport.  

Then it is on to Pattaya Beach and see if we can get a tan before we return to California on June 3rd.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trip to Ban AYO - Kid's Shelter

I was feeling kind of down in the dumps as I looked out the widow of our room.  All I could focus on was the side of the casino that is on the other side of the Mae Sai River in Myanmar (Burma).  It was an over casted day and I kept looking at the side of this large building, the casino. 
Then for some reason my focus moved up to the hills and
 clouds above the casino.  The clouds got all puffy and the mountain looked very green and rich.
I guess that was just a nudge to look higher in the picture to see good things. 

Now, we have been having so much fun we have forgotten about the kids.

That is pretty much the way I parented in the past, too. 

Daeng has purchased a big bag of things for the kids and ask me when we were going to Ban AYO to see how the kids shelter was doing.  I said let's do it now.  

We called our friends, Peter and Nok, that live about 20 km south of here and on the way to Ban AYO.  They said they would love to go with us.

We packed up and headed to pick them up.  At the check point we were stopped again.  I as usual hopped out of the car and started taking
 pictures telling everyone to "smile".  

They check our ID's and looked a little into the things Daeng has brought for the kids.  It was a pretty big bag of candy and cookies but no drugs or contraband.  
They told us to get out of there
 and we went to pick up Peter and Nok.

It was a nice drive up through the mountain road.  It is also much more comfortable in an air conditioned car than a motorbike.  I'm just getting spoiled.  

The dirt road was not in as good a condition as it was the last trip as it had been raining a lot ands the road had big ruts in it.  The little Honda Jazz with it's 7 speed electric transmission made the trip extremely well. 
When we got to the shelter, Chom-nom was there and greeted us.  We walked down the hill to the shelter area as it has been raining almost everyday and the driveway was muddy.

Chom-nom had been working on the drainage as 
when they terraced the hill with the bull dozier they slopped it back to the hill instead of away from the hill. How the water  sits in big puddles when it rains.  It looked like they had solved this problem.
The shelter was not ready to move into yet.  The rain had slowed them down but you could see progress.

And one good thing, water was still running!

My friend, Peter, kept saying: "Wow, how beautiful and clean the view is!"  That is true and no plastic bags or plastic bottles laying around.

We walked back up the hill and got into the car to drive the rest of the way to Chom-nom's Mother.  

We had a nice "AKHA" lunch with sausage, chicken, rice, cooked bamboo, steamed morning glory and a few other things that I did not know the names of.  
All but the little kids were in school for the day so we did not get to see them this trip.  

One of the fruits we had were "Lychee's".  They were the sweetest ones that I have had in Thailand.  Nok asked Chom-non where he got them.  Chom-nom, who studied horticulture at the University, told her from his trees.  

She ask him if he could buy some, say 30 kilo from him, to take to her home on the bus tomorrow.  She said they did not have these at Buri Ram, her home.   

Chom-nom hopped on his motorbike and returned about a half hour with two big bags on this fruit.  He also gave her a bag of fresh bamboo sprouts to take.

We said our goodbyes and told them we would see them again in about five months.  Chom-nom said he would have the guest part of the shelter finished so we could stay at the shelter the next visit.  

We loaded up and made the trip back before the big rain started again.  This time of year it rains hard almost every afternoon.